Another Side of New Orleans

We decided to "go elegant" this time and stay in the ultra-luxurious Windsor Court Hotel. We were pampered all the way, but we still found time to visit some of our favorite French Quarter haunts.


Another Side of New Orleans

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 10, 2003

We have been to New Orleans several times, and we usually stay in the French Quarter. This time, I had a business conference to attend at the Marriott, but I found a better deal at the Windsor Court. What a wonderful experience! We enjoyed exploring a new neighborhood, and will definitely stay there again next time.${QuickSuggestions} Afternoon tea at the Windsor Court; white chocolate bread pudding at the Palace Cafe; shopping for vintage clothing at the Trashy Diva; Laura's Candy shop -- a few of my new favorite things${BestWay} Walk, take the St. Charles streetcar (but not during rush hour), and walk some more.

Windsor Court Hotel

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 10, 2003

Our room was spacious, elegant, and full of little treats that made our stay very special. Little bedside mats, the best amenities, instant fulfillment of our every request. Wonderful linens and very comfortable beds made it difficult to get up in the mornings. But the promise of a wonderful breakfast served in front of our floor-to-ceiling windows got us moving.

We had a great view of the downtown area and French Quarter, and ate most of our meals right there. Room service is available 24 hours a day, and we never waited more than 30 minutes for our meals, no matter what the time of day or night. The food is prepared in the hotel's Grill Room, one of New Orleans premier restaurants, and is delicious and beautifully presented. Even the club sandwich that we ordered on our arrival (at 11:00 pm) was wonderful.

The gorgeous lobby is very traditionally English, with wood paneling and a beautiful green marble floor. Understated and elegant, it was filled with the soft, cool scent of dozens of roses. Very refreshing after the heat and humidity outside. High tea is served in the lobby each afternoon. There is fine art everywhere you look, and a feeling of comfort and welcome that I have seldom found in luxury hotels.

We were pampered and treated as welcome guests, even though we arrived very late and very disheveled after driving nine hours. We loved the hotel so much and were so spoiled, it was difficult to leave. Every staff member we met treated us as though we were the most important guests in the hotel. True Southern hospitality at its best, unlike the rather snooty attitude one finds at some of the other top hotels in New Orleans.

And this place is great for celebrity spotting -- Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, and Bob Dylan are regular guests, and many musicians stay there during JazzFest in May. No luck this trip, but I wish I had been in the hotel bar several months ago, when Paul McCartney sang a love song to his new wife, Heather.

World class service with that special New Orleans magic. And a great website, complete with menus for the Grill Room and pictures of everything. And the prices are remarkably reasonable. We booked a "regular" room for $175.00, and that was when the city was full for JazzFest. It was actually the cheapest room rate I found among the major hotels. This hotel was named by Conde Nast Traveler as the best hotel in the world a couple of years ago, and I highly suggest you check it out if you're going to New Orleans.

Windsor Court Hotel
300 GRAVIER STREET
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130
504-523-6000

Hotel Villa Convento

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 12, 2003

The Hotel Villa Convento is a very special place in a unique area of the French Quarter. Ursulines Street is a quiet area named for the nearby Old Ursuline Convent. It's a long walk from Canal Street but near enough to walk to most of the major sites in the French Quarter.

The lobby of the hotel is small and graced by an elegant chandelier and an ancient elevator with padded walls. All the rooms are different, and the prices vary to fit most budgets. Breakfast is served in the courtyard, and it includes croissants from Croissant d'Or across the street.

Although the carriage tour drivers have begun calling the hotel the inspiration for the House of the Rising Sun, there is apparently no truth to this. But the hotel doesn't need any embellishment. The building is a four-story Creole jewel built in 1848. If you've had enough of the party on Bourbon Street and would like a change of pace, this is the perfect choice.

Hotel Villa Convento
616 Ursulines St.
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
504/522-1793

Biscuit Palace Guest House

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 10, 2003

We have stayed at the Biscuit Palace four times, and we love it. It's our favorite place in the French Quarter. The location is perfect if you enjoy being close to the action -- half a block from Bourbon Street.

The house itself was built in 1820 by the founder of Tulane Law School, and the bottom floor was his office. The remainder of the four-story building was his family quarters. The decor is classic New Orleans -- somewhat garish, nothing matches, and yet there is an air of elegance and decadance that is very appealing. Some of the rooms have balconies over Dumaine Street, and those are the choice spots. Some of the rooms have kitchens, separate bedrooms, and room for two to sleep in the living room.

The courtyard is lovely, and the koi pond has the biggest gold fish you have ever seen. Some scenes from Interview With A Vampire were filmed here, and if that isn't enough, the place is haunted by a gentle female ghost. I have had two encounters with her and several of my friends have also. Royal Street, with all its great shopping and restaurants, is half a block away, and the Clover Grill is right across the street.

The website has lots of pictures and information, and an email link for reservations and inquiries.

Biscuit Palace Guest House
730 Dumaine
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
(504) 561-1069

Irene's Cuisine

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 11, 2003

Irene's has been called the best restaurant in the French Quarter, and I can't argue with that. The restaurant does not take reservations, and fills up quickly, so get there early if you don't like waiting. However, you may change your mind when you wait for a table in the little bar in the back, listening to a good jazz pianist and enjoying the ambiance. Everyone is steered directly into the bar for a drink, even if there are tables available. I found this annoying on my first visit, until I relaxed and enjoyed the music and the chance to slow down and prepare myself for a great meal. Complimentary bruscetta begins the meal, followed by your choice of luscious dishes -- rosemary chicken, roast duck, good steak (which can be difficult to find in New Orleans). Desserts are the usual Italian standbys, the best being the tiramisu. The tables are crowded close together, the place is noisy and chaotic at times, but I've never failed to have a fun, delicious and memorable meal there, and always include Irene's on my itinerary.
Irene's Cuisine
539 St. Phillip St
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
+1 504 523 4021

Croissant d'Or Patisserie

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 13, 2003

Whenever I stay in the French Quarter, this is my first destination after checking in and getting settled. Wonderful pastries and bread -- croissants in many varities (my favorite is almond), eclairs, cream puffs -- so many choices, you'll find yourself too tempted to make a decision. Great cafe au lait and hot chocolate are available to wash it down.

For lunch, come back for delectable sandwiches and quiches. Try to get a window seat, where you can watch the passersby as you savor some time in this cool oasis. The building is old and charming, and the interior is ornately decorated, with a small courtyard and fountain that is pleasant on less-steamy days.

This is a somewhat neglected part of the French Quarter, because it is not close to the action on Bourbon Street or Royal. I enjoy the quieter pace, and the Cafe d'Or is a great rest stop after touring the Old Ursuline Convent or one of the historic houses nearby.

Croissant d'Or Patisserie
617 Ursulines Ave
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
(504) 524-4663

Palace Cafe

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 10, 2003

One of the Brennan family of restaurants, this is a high-energy, somewhat noisy restaurant, with fabulous food, attentive service, and a great view of the kitchen.

The crabmeat cheesecake is the best and two people can split it as an appetizer. The duck dishes are wonderful and the white-chocolate bread pudding is the only dessert you should consider. Our waiter was kind enough to give me the recipes for the cheesecake and bread pudding, and I ended up ordering the Palace Cafe Cookbook after I got home.

The kitchen is behind a glass wall and you can watch the madness that goes on as this delectable fare is created. Definitely put this one on your list. I've been to NO a couple of dozen times and love to try new restaurants, and this is in my top five.

Palace Cafe
605 Canal St
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130
(504) 523-1661

Tujaques

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 23, 2003

Tujaques is a required experience for lovers of tradition and history. Founded in 1856 by an immigrant French couple, it served the dock workers, sailors, and market workers of that time the same food available today. The traditional Creole menu of shrimp remoulade, soup, brisket with creole sauce, a choice of four daily entrees, and a luscious finale of pecan pie or bread pudding with strong dark coffee, remains unchanged.

Some recent additions of lighter entrees and even a vegetarian menu are available. However, I've never tried them, since the whole point of this place for me is the opportunity to experience culinary history.

You are seated in dark bentwood chairs, before a starched white tablecloth. The dining room is small and plain, elegant and understated. The dishes are presented simply, and they need no embellishment. The sauces are the masterpieces here, and they are rich and complex creations. The chefs still shop at the French Market across the street each morning for the freshest vegetables. A good wine list, and knowledgeable advice from your server, round out the experience. Linger for as long as you wish. You will never be rushed, and can enjoy that last bite of bread pudding at your leisure.

Don't miss the adjoining bar, which has an interesting history of its own. The cypress bar and the mirror over the bar are original, and the mirror had already served for 90 years at a restaurant in Paris before it was installed at Tujaques in 1856. And major plus -- the same food is served in the bar, at a much-reduced price. The restaurant's website is full of history about the restaurant and local area, and you can take a look at the menu.

Tujague's Restaurant
823 Decatur St
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
+1 504 525 8676

Bourbon French Parfums

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 17, 2003

Bourbon French Parfums was founded in 1843 by French perfumeur August Doussan. Monsieur Doussan was soon a favorite of the powerful Creole families, and the company has been thriving for 160 years. His gift was in blending the classic perfumes of France with the varieties of local scents he found in Louisiana. Gardenia, magnolia, vetiver, lemon verbena, vanilla, and other New World fragrances were added to his palette. Today, all of the shop's products are still hand-blended, in small batches, by its own perfumeurs.

This is the girliest place you could possibly imagine. On display are little hand-painted fans (great souveniers -- I get a new one every trip), antique perfume bottles, and row after row of an immense variety of scents. The shop moved from its Jackson Square location a couple of years ago, and now is directly across Royal Street from its arch-rival, Hove Perfumes. The new location is smaller, but the same magic is contained within.

These perfumes are simpler and purer than the department store variety. The single-flower scents are fresh and cool, perfect for a steamy New Orleans afternoon. The more complex blends (my favorite -- Voodoo Love) are a delight. The choices are overwhelming, but there are several options for buying small quantities of a variety of scents. Both men's and women's scents are available.

Bourbon French also offers private consultations and blending of custom perfumes. The consultation takes about an hour, and the formula you create with the perfumeur is kept on file so you can order more whenever you want. There are several options for buying a small amount of the new scent, or you can go all-out and get the "perfume wardrobe" for a couple of hundred dollars. One of my friends had this done, and was very pleased.

Bourbon French Parfums

Bourbon French Parfums
815 Royal St
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
+1 504 522 4480; +1

Laura's Candies

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MissKitty on July 27, 2003

Since 1913, Laura's Candies has been creating and selling the best candy in New Orleans. The best pralines are available here, along with truffles, peanut brittle, cherry cordials, rum balls, divinity, and fudge.

The shop also carries a variety of Cajun and Creole mixes, sauces, and gift items, and a nice selection of cookbooks.

There is a newer location at 331 Chartres, but I prefer the original Royal Street location. It's a great one-stop shop for souveniers and gifts, and the staff is helpful and friendly. There are always free samples available, and if you can't be there in person, visit the website for ordering information.

Laura's Candies
331 Chartres Street
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70130
(504) 525-3880

Aunt Sally's Praline Shop

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MissKitty on December 23, 2004

Although it looks like a typical tourist shop from the outside, Aunt Sally's is actually the best place in the French Quarter to find good-quality gifts and souvenirs. Located between Cafe du Monde and the French Market, it's a great place to pick up something nice for yourself or for those you left behind.

The last time I was in New Orleans, I bought pralines from several different places and asked some of my friends to do a taste test. Aunt Sally's pralines won hands down. Packed with pecans, smooth, and rich, they are the best. They come in original and chocolate, and both are wonderful.

Aunt Sally's also sells a wide range of New Orleans and Southern cookbooks, featuring cookbooks from some of the best restaurants in New Orleans. Many seasoning mixes and other cooking ingredients are available, along with such unique items as an alligator oven mitt.

There is also a nice range of CDs available, featuring local artists, and books on New Orleans, including Kerri McCaffety's beautiful books on the French Quarter, Garden District, and the bars of New Orleans.

I've never made it out of Aunt Sally's without a big bag full of goodies, and the website keeps me supplied with pralines when I can't get to New Orleans. Check it out for the wide range of New Orleans items available.

Aunt Sally's Praline Shops
810 Decatur St
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70116
+1 504 524 3373

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